Thanksgiving is a holiday that is surrounded by family, friends, food, and suffering. There is joy, celebration, reunion, and grief. The suffering and grief may be silent, but it is undoubtedly present. Thanksgiving is a time of refocusing on what we are most grateful for, but how do we celebrate it in the middle of a lament? How do we remain genuine in showing our gratefulness to God when this year Thanksgiving falls on a season of suffering for many believers around the world? The answer: we can be thankful like Job.
Job 1-2, the story of Job’s suffering
Job 3, Job’s lament
Job 38:1-7, God Speaks To Job
Job 42:1-3, “Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Job 42: 4-17, God restores Job and blesses the latter half of his life more than the former.
Context And Connection:
Anytime we read scripture, we must understand that it is the living word of God and that it was written to a specific audience for a specific time. Below are some things to consider while reflecting on Job:
This was pre-Jesus and in the time of the Law, so the people of God were still sacrificing animals as atonement for sin. At this time, the culture viewed prosperity as a sign of God’s favor on the obedient. You can see this in Job 4:7. For example, when Job’s friends unapologetically accused him of sinning against God and placed the blame on Job for his own suffering. They deduced that surely these hardships are only inflicted on the especially wicked of sinners. Some could argue that the more livestock you had, the less you had to atone for. Additionally, many people of the time would interpret abundance as God’s way to award obedience. However, even before Job’s time, there were instances of the righteous experiencing hardship:
- Abel was innocent and was murdered;
- Lot was righteous and his home was destroyed;
- Noah was the only obedient man of God left on the Earth and he had to start his life over completely.
As Christians, we should always read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus. This means we should understand scripture is pointing us to the coming of the Messiah – the one who will free the people of God from the bondage of sin and break down every traditional wall we were never supposed to build.
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
It is believed that the Jews of that time created a culture of shame towards the poor and marginalized, but Jesus refocuses us. Before, our focus was on the material blessings. The more you had, the more righteous you were believed to be; But Jesus brings our focus to the humbled, the oppressed, and the marginalized and calls them “blessed.”
He tells the rich young ruler to sell all that he has (Matthew 19:16-26), He calls his disciples to leave behind their livelihood and follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:2-11), and He gives us the beatitudes in Matthew 5.
Though the Messiah had not yet arrived, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His focus is never changing. Our God more often than not, uses the humbled, the oppressed, and the marginalized in the Old Testament to display His glory to the nations, and Job is no different.
As you are reading and reflecting, lean into this truth. Job never loses sight of who God is. At the end of the book of Job, God scolds Job’s friends for trying to make false claims about Job’s integrity and God’s character, and he blesses the latter half of Job’s life even more than the first.
Listen to “Weep With Me” by Rend Collective
If we are to be the people of God today, we must cultivate a culture of Thanksgiving in all things. The word for giving thanks in the Bible, yadah, means to raise hands to God in gratitude. The words for lament in the Bible, “Quwn,” “Caphad,” and “‘Abal,” all convey a sense of outwardly demonstrating deep sorrow or regret. Can we lament while in thanksgiving?
“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.[c]The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20-21 NIV).
Can we lament while in thanksgiving? The answer is yes. We can be thankful like Job.
Do not confuse this with gaslighting each other into putting a fake smile on to make others more comfortable. We can allow ourselves to lament loudly and openly in the spirit of our grief while simultaneously humbling ourselves before the Lord and praising Him in the spirit of Thanksgiving.
- How do we lament while also giving Thanksgiving to God? Read Job 1:20-22
- Are you or have you ever been in a season of suffering and identify with Job’s lament? How so?
- How can we as Christians be a witness to the world around us through our suffering?
- How can we show love to those lamenting during the Thanksgiving holiday this year?
Prayer of Lament and Worship
[Book of Common Prayer, Page 555]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
we enjoin your divine mercies.
Lord, why do we suffer?
Why do we hurt?
Shall our only answer
be the eternal abyss of the cosmos?
Shall our only answer be the whirlwind of unknowing
which engulfed Job?
Why do the wicked flourish,
while the righteous waste away?
I am left speechless, left with the words,
“I will trust in you, my God.”
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
If you know anyone who will be mourning this year, reach out to them and tell them you are thinking of them.
Whether they are mourning the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a relationship, or even the loss of their job or home or financial security… reach out to them and let them know they are in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.
If you are meeting with family or friends this Thanksgiving holiday and one of them has had a recent loss, consider seeking a way to honor that person.
- You can make their favorite dish in their memory.
- While going around sharing things you’re thankful for, each person could add something about the departed they are grateful for.
- You could set a place for them at the table.
In the words of Rev. john Wesley, “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them for His sake – not choosing nor refusing, liking or disliking, anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will.” [How to Pray: The best of John Wesley on Prayer]
Allie Tirey is an independent contractor and content creator. She specializes in women in ministry and is interested in differences and similarities between denominational beliefs. You may contact her via email.